Brewers On Deck is today, with thousands of Brewers fans flocking to Milwaukee for meet-and-greets with players who may end up getting stuck in town if this week’s winter storm is as bad as expected.
For a lot of guys representing the local nine, it’s our first chance to get updates on how they’re thinking and feeling just a few weeks before Spring Training gets underway. This year there’s a special interest in Jimmy Nelson, who’s expected to make his long-awaited return to the mound after a frustrating year of recovery from a shoulder injury.
Last year at On Deck, the word from the coaching staff was that Nelson could have been ready to contribute by June. It turns out that was an overly-optimistic estimation by former pitching coach Derek Johnson, as Nelson’s progress plateaued about that time and he ended up never making an appearance in a competitive game.
Nelson has maintained that the chains will be off for him come Spring Training, though, and he set a lofty goal for himself at this year’s On Deck:
Jimmy Nelson said he will be full go heading into spring training, with no restrictions physically. Does he expect to be on the opening day roster? "Absolutely. But not just opening-day roster. One of my goals is to start opening day. I'm not going to beat around the bush."— Todd Rosiak (@Todd_Rosiak) January 27, 2019
Considering it’s been more than a year since he’s played in competitive games, making the start on Opening Day may be unrealistic. Newly minted President of Baseball Operations and GM David Stearns more or less said as much when he was asked about Nelson’s comments a little later in the morning:
David Stearns pumped the brakes a bit on Jimmy Nelson's bold statement from earlier. But you can't blame Nelson at all for being pumped and ready to compete again. After 16 months of 7-10 hours a day of rehab on his right shoulder, he can see the light at the end of the tunnel.— Todd Rosiak (@Todd_Rosiak) January 27, 2019
David Stearns says Jimmy Nelson’s health will dictate is workload this spring but “loves the mentality” that Nelson wants to start Opening Day. #BrewersOnDeck— Andrew Wagner (@ByAndrewWagner) January 27, 2019
The organization likely learned its lesson on getting their (and our) hopes up on Nelson. But as Stearns said, it’s hard not to like Nelson’s confidence at this point. Still, we likely shouldn’t count on Nelson as a contributor until he’s actually on the roster — and shown he’s shaken off the rust. As Craig Counsell noted, they may also have to protect Nelson from himself to a certain extent:
"We expect Jimmy to pitch for us this year, but you can't force the pace of a guy who missed a full year ... we are probably going to have to slow him down a bit, he's chomping at the bit to get back"— Kyle L. (@brewerfan28) January 27, 2019
- Counsell on Jimmy Nelson
Nelson returning and pitching like the Jimmy Nelson of 2017 would be a huge win for the 2019 Brewers, but they shouldn’t be counting on it — and it doesn’t look like they are, at least at this point. Anything Nelson can provide this year would likely be considered gravy.